INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Creem JULY 2006 - by Jeffrey Morgan
BRIAN ENO: THE REMASTERED ALBUMS / 14 VIDEO PAINTINGS / ANOTHER DAY ON EARTH
Editor's Note: The following stump speech was written after the author opened his 1978 'slightly revised edition' box of Oblique Strategies and randomly drew a card which said: "Don't be frightened to display your talents." What a prat.
ENOSHRINED: The first thing all women notice upon entering my swanky bachelor pad is my cENOtaph - not that it's hard to miss, mind you.
On the left side of the fireplace is a large original full color Island Records promotional poster for Here Come The Warm Jets showing a heavily made-up and glammed to the gills Eno wearing a plunging neckline top while standing in front of two analogous androgynous creatures.
On the right side of the fireplace is a large original sepia-toned Island Records promotional poster for Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) from which a bereted Eno wryly looks out in arched-eyebrow satyr mode.
And over the mantelpiece between the two is one of Peter Schmidt's original unique Tiger Mountain cover lithographs, signed and numbered 91/1500 by the late artist in pencil on the lower right hand corner.
After the collection plate has been passed around and we've reverently browsed through my comprehensive online scanned article archive on EnoWeb - the definitive site [apart from the one you're on now] which will inform the uninitiated amongst you exactly who Eno is and why no less a venerable arts institution than Musee d'Ars Iconografix has named him "the greatest non-musician of the 20th Century" - the ladies and I retire to the bedroom for an inspirational sermon on the mount, during which the conversation usually drifts around to the topic of what exactly Old Uncle Een has been up to these days.
As it happens, his recent Roxy reunion notwithstanding, Professor Beranoni has been fairly busy of late overseeing a number of primary concerns - most notably the release of two key projects: an old one in a new form, and a new one in an old form. But before I explain, perhaps an underhanded overview is in order.
FOUR FOR NEXUS: In the hope that Eno aficionados perhaps will reacquire those things they bought and disposed of, premiere avantronic record label Astralwerks has been systematically reissuing Bari Neon's back catalog, replete with sheathed album art and megabit Hi-Fi encoding. Vitally essential listening are his first four interlinked art rock vocal albums, to wit:
Here Come The Warm Jets - Wherein Eno digs deep to mine a rich untapped Velvets vein. Cleverly abrasive (Driving Me Backwards) but never abusive (Baby's On Fire), this is the rock roué's idea of a bidet aerobics tape.
Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) - His undisputed all-time masterpiece for the ages and the last solo album on which every song has a complete set of lyrics, all of which are personally sung by Eno. From the half-speed background whistling of The Bridge On The River Kwai's Colonel Bogey March during the chorus of Back In Judy's Jungle to the unrelenting rampant ambient cricket menace at the end of The Great Pretender to the dual stereo typewriter solos on China My China, this inventive album is still several decades ahead of its time in terms of sheer breathtaking brilliance. If you only buy one Eno album in this life, make sure it's this treasure trove of riches.
Another Green World - By adapting the innovative format of alternating catchy pop songs with sparse instrumentals as originally pioneered by Paul McCartney on his first solo album McCartney, Eno comes up with one of the most influential albums of all time. Often imitated (ref: David Bowie's Low) but never duplicated (ref: David Bowie's "Heroes") and certainly never equalled (ref: David Bowie's Lodger), this reflective meditative music is Dharma for all.
Before And After Science - The passage of time has transmuted what initially appeared to be an unfocused letdown into an understated record of faith that's far smarter than originally deemed. Both the joyous inverted Escheresque lyrics of Backwater and the raucous vertiginous pop metal of the anagrammatic King's Lead Hat are the storm before the lull.
DRIVING ME SIDEWAYS: When Eno released Thursday Afternoon in 1984 on E.G. Records - now available from Astralwerks - it was his first composition to take full ambient advantage of the new expanded compact disc format. Shortly thereafter, he released a companion videotape with the same name that contained a number of treated nude studies which Eno had recorded with a video camera turned sideways. However, the video version of Thursday Afternoon died a quick delete bin death - languishing unsold even after being marked down to 99 cents - because in order to watch it in the correct corresponding vertical format as originally taped by egghead Eno, you first had to likewise turn your television set onto its side. And just in case the concept was unclear, an instructional diagram printed on the Betamax box showed the correct procedure for tipping over a TV. Yet despite the inclusion of this handy visual aid, the same fate befell Eno's second vertical video of ambient paintings, Mistaken Memories Of Mediaeval Manhattan.
SOMETHING OLD IN A NEW FORM: But just as the compact disc revolution made it possible for Eno to record an hour-long album, the digital video disc revolution has likewise made it possible for Eno to now reissue both of the above two video collections as 14 Video Paintings in both vertical and horizontal formats. Of course, the advent of new pivoting computer monitors makes this latest Enovation a tad on the superfluous side, but for those of us who would prefer to watch a barely moving sun-speckled New York skyline or incrementally undulating nude on a large format TV, it's a menu option that's hard to beat.
SOMETHING NEW IN A OLD FORM: Which brings us to Another Day On Earth, Eno's first vocal solo album in decades. Eno claims that being on his country estate near Didcot, Oxfordshire made him hanker to record a rock album once again. "Living here seems to have made me want to rock out," he says. But if this is what Eno remembers rock 'n' roll as being, then he needs to go back and listen to those first two Roxy Music albums he played on, because there isn't one song on this album that can even be remotely considered a rock song.
Breathtaking in their banality, the lyrics on Another Day On Earth are the most uninventive and disengaging that Eno's ever recorded. I thought the music on The Shutov Assembly was seriously underwhelming, but that earlier instrumental album of his makes this new one sound like Stranded on human growth hormone. Even worse, Another Day On Earth confirms what's been painfully obvious for some time now: that the only kind of songs Old Man Eno is now capable of writing are ballads - which wouldn't be bad if they were good. But because I remember the high quality of Spider And I and Julie With... off Before And After Science, I hold him to a higher standard than this trite treacle.
The monkey wrench of rock was a mischievous imp who always placed lit sticks of ingenuity beneath the staid foundations of modern music. He used to be a firebrand. But Eno's extinguished. And any idiot would know that.